ENRIQUEZ: Design your own path

It’s telling that a year later, Marina Keegan’s piece on consulting and banking recruitment, “Even Artichokes have Doubts,” continues to ignite heated conversations across campus and the country about campus recruitment and the jobs we take once we leave Yale. The piece left us questioning what we value, how we measure our own impact and what we want to learn along the way.

I didn’t go through the consulting and banking interviews many of my friends did this past year. I spent my summers working in rural Mexico on development projects and running around Colombia doing research on drug cartels for my senior thesis. My value system developed through these on-site experiences, because I learn better from full immersion into my projects than I do behind a textbook or my laptop. I grabbed these opportunities when they were offered to me because I wasn’t sure I’d ever have these chances again.

The most interesting people I’ve met at Yale are the unconventional ones. The ones who didn’t follow the rules and instead made their own. The ones who skipped down the path written out for them or forged their own way. The ones who aren’t afraid to be different and push beyond the expected in their fields — whether this is in engineering, philosophy or social sciences. There is something to be said for people challenging the accepted order of things.

It feels like the big question on all of our minds, and especially the anxious seniors, is how we get to the next step. Once we leave, how do we realize the larger projects we have in mind — the ones we developed while we had time to explore at Yale?

It requires a certain confidence to accept uncertainty, to accept being different. I’m talking about those people in your sections, your seminars and your afternoon activities whose eyes light up when they talk about their ideas and projects. How do we hold on to these interests and turn them into our future projects? As we begin the job search, we are also figuring out how best we can put these ideas into practice.

Personally, I have come to understand that my future job will require me to pitch my own ideas, and to me this is both terrifying and exciting. I spent my break talking to people who were doing work that I found interesting. I learned about the pros and cons of working in think tanks and living in various cities. I asked about what work life was actually like and how much people could control in their daily lives. I asked about skill sets and what people hoped to get out of their current jobs. It’s all given me a better way of understanding what I am looking for in a work environment.

One statement came up over and over again in these conversations: the single career path no longer exists. You will probably change jobs several times over the course of your lifetime, and each one will teach you something you need to take on to the next round.

This is exciting. It means we don’t need to have that 10-year plan carefully laid out and set in stone right now. You have the chance to work on all kinds of projects and talk to interesting people, but you also need to keep pushing yourself to come up with new ideas.

We came to Yale as individuals, each with something to offer to our classes as a whole. Over time it gets more difficult to give these unique traits the same degree of weight, and we may be tempted to conform and give them up. But make a promise to yourself here and now:

Celebrate everything that makes you unusual. Because that individuality is what will help you find your first job and your space in whatever community you find yourself after Yale. It’s up to you to decide what impact you want to have in the world, and how you’ll measure it along the way.

Diana Enriquez is a senior in Saybrook College. Contact her at diana.enriquez@yale.edu .